CASPER - A Wyoming woman has sued the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, accusing the church of covering up the behavior of a priest who pleaded guilty to abusing the woman when she was a teen in the 1970s.
The lawsuit, which was filed last week in Natrona County District Court, also names John Murray, a former priest who lives in Cheyenne.
The woman reported the abuse to Casper police a couple of years ago, leading Murray to plead guilty in June 2006 to engaging in indecent liberties with a minor.
The lawsuit claims the diocese should have known of other instances of alleged misconduct by Murray.
The Rev. Michael Carr, the diocesan administrator, said Murray's behavior was deplorable, but he said the statute of limitations had run out for any legal action against the diocese.
Murray declined to comment on the lawsuit. Paul Hickey, a lawyer representing the diocese, said Murray is prohibited from offering the sacraments or publicly presenting himself as a priest. Hickey also said the victim's time to file the lawsuit has passed.
"It's just a sad, sad thing and we'll get it cleared," Hickey said.
According to the lawsuit, the victim was in her teens when her family moved to Casper and joined St. Anthony's Catholic Church. The lawsuit alleged that Murray sexually abused her at least four times in 1976 and 1977.
The woman, who is now in her 40s, claims the abuse caused her to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.
Her lawsuit accuses Murray and the diocese of negligence, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit also accuses the diocese of fraud and negligent supervision because, the lawsuit claims, Murray was reassigned to different churches because of other instances of alleged abuse. It says the diocese should have known about the alleged abuse, warned families and prevented Murray from having contact with children.
Carr said he doesn't know what happened 30 years ago regarding Murray's transfers.
He said the diocese offers counseling and other services to the victims of clergy abuse. The diocese has updated its policies about sexual misconduct following pedophile scandals within the Catholic church, he said.
"We've certainly tried to make great strides and hope it never happens again," Carr said.